Marijuana and alcohol are two of the most commonly abused substances in the United States. Both are also highly controversial. Some people argue that both can be relatively harmless if used in moderation. However, studies also point to the numerous health risks of both substances. Both marijuana and alcohol having been shown to alter our brain chemistry – with sometimes dangerous results! These effects are even worse for younger people as substance abuse can affect their mental development. Research proves that both marijuana and alcohol use can have a negative impact on the health and academic achievements of teens and college students.
Alcohol and Marijuana Use Common by Teens and Young Adults
Alcohol and marijuana are commonly used these days by young adults and teenagers in the United States. Recent reports show that around 8.7 million youths from the ages of 13-20 have consumed alcohol in the past month. Even worse, 6% of 8th grade students (aged 13 to 14) and 14.8% of 10th graders (aged 15 to 16) in the U.S. report currently using marijuana. These alarming numbers reveal the reality of teenage and young adult substance abuse in the U.S., which is a growing concern for parents and teachers alike. This concern has motivated scientists to more closely examine these trends to determine their cause and long term effects.
To do this, the researchers assessed approximately 6,509 young adults in Southern California. The participants varied in age. In total they completed 7 surveys which asked about their alcohol and marijuana usage. The final survey also inquired about their social functioning, academic performance, mental and physical health, and delinquent behavior, if any. Researchers found that comparatively speaking, teens and young adults who reported little to no marijuana or alcohol usage during their middle and high school years were found to have greater academic preparedness and were less likely to engage in delinquent behavior. Conversely, participants who did partake in marijuana and alcohol were more inclined to risky behavior and were more likely to have poor academics. The young adults who used drugs and alcohol were also found to have worse mental and physical health overall.
Substance Abuse Impacts Brain Development
Commenting on these findings, one research says that “Many youth tend to think that alcohol use has more consequences than marijuana use and therefore view marijuana use as safer than drinking. However, youth need to better understand the harms of marijuana use, such as the potential effect on their developing brain and how it can affect performance in both adolescence and adulthood.”
These findings show an undeniable need to address the dangers of marijuana and alcohol use early on, regardless of race. One possible approach could be to focus on more involved parenting. Researchers noted certain limitations to their study, including the influences of parental involvement, neighborhood quality, or racial discrimination. Factors such as these certainly contribute to the likelihood of teens and young adults using alcohol or marijuana.
The high number of teens and young adults engaging in such risk-taking behaviors is alarming. The results of this study should act as a wake-up call for concerned parents and friends to take notice of the effects of alcohol and marijuana. Further research should be done into the prevalence of substance abuse by young adults and how it impacts their mental health. Education is an important and necessary first step. By better educating both young AND old adults, we can encourage better choices regarding the health and safety of young adults and teenagers.